Oklahoma Senate Passes Legislation Increasing Teacher Pay; Walkout Still Imminent

Oklahoma Senate Passes Legislation Increasing Teacher Pay; Walkout Still Imminent

Oklahoma Senate Passes Legislation Increasing Teacher Pay; Walkout Still Imminent

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature gave final approval to a $447 million tax increase package to raise the salaries of teachers and school support staff across the state. She also signed a bill to increase taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel, lodging and oil and gas production that would raise an estimated $450 million for lawmakers to spend. One state representative argued that the bill had a $75 million hole in it before taking the repeal of the hotel and motel tax into account.

Less than 24 hours after the Oklahoma Senate passed a revenue bill, the House has voted to repeal a tax that was expected to generate almost $50 million. It increases the state's gasoline tax by 3 cents and the diesel tax by 6 cents.

Teachers in Oklahoma are planning to hold a state-wide walkout on Monday, saying a pay raise passed by the state isn't enough.

The mobilization by teachers in Oklahoma follows a multi-day strike in West Virginia earlier this month during which educators and school employees also occupied the state capitol to demand raises and a permanent funding solution for their health insurance program.

The package allows for a $6,100, or 16 percent, pay raise on average for Oklahoma teachers.

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While claiming there were no resources for public education, let alone pay raises, the Democrats and Republicans over the last decade have handed billions of dollars in tax breaks to the state's energy corporations.

Bartlesville: If Fallin signs the bill, a majority of teachers will not walkout.

In Kentucky, teachers are also striking in order to fight changes to their pensions plans.

OEA leaders say teachers are grateful for the pay increases approved by the Legislature, but they were never more concerned about themselves than they are about the devastating effects of deep state funding cuts since 2009 on students.

Oklahoma teachers are fighting for more than raises for teachers. To make matters worse, the meager pay increase will be funded through slashing other essential services, including potential cuts to Medicaid for the low-income children the teachers serve. Other districts that will close schools Monday include Edmond, Norman and Oklahoma City.

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After a historic raise is approved by the Oklahoma House and Senate, almost 200 teachers across the district gathered to discuss their next plan of action.

"Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students", Priest said. "'We surveyed our members about, you know, 'you definitely want to go and you definitely want to stay out?' And I mean, it was overwhelming, over 90 percent were like 'you bet.'" "Unless the legislature comes up with some legislation before Tuesday that not only provides - yeah, the raises are great, but we need funding for our classrooms and our students", she said.

With less funding, many cash-strapped schools have gone to four-day weeks, while certifying a growing number of emergency teachers to fill vacant jobs.

"West Virginia woke us up", Arizona Educators Association President Joe Thomas told a cheering crowd at a protest this week in Phoenix.

$5 hotel/motel tax on any room booked in Oklahoma.

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